BOOK GIVEAWAY! The Art of American Whiskey By Noah Rothbaum

Hey there! Do you consider yourself a bit of a whiskey nerd? Are you also into American history, and like to geek out over vintage advertising, graphic and industrial design? Am I just describing myself? Is this a dating profile?? Stay with me here.

Art of American Whiskey_cover

I KNOW I’m not the only one around these parts who is a fan of all of the above. Even if you only have a passing interest in history, design and American whiskey, but appreciate a thoroughly researched, visually appealing page turner, you’ll very much enjoy The Art of American Whiskey: A Visual History of the Nation’s Most Storied Spirit, through 100 Iconic Labels by Noah Rothbaum.

Unlike the glut of whiskey books out there concentrating on what is inside the bottle, The Art of American Whiskey tells the story of this revered spirit by focusing on what has been created to appear on the outside.

Fans of historic Four Roses would be sure to spot this ornate box decorated with its signature flowers on the pharmacy shelf. This particular bottle was prescribed to a patient in Sparks, Nevada, in 1924. According to the label, two ounces of whiskey were to be mixed with hot water.” (excerpt from the chapter: Prohibition)

Four Roses

Four Roses, p 32 (Photo courtesy of Four Roses)

Turns out, the iconic labels and packaging that have helped to market the spirit that is so ingrained in American culture and history, have their own story to tell.

Bourbon Falls was the first whiskey sold by Heaven Hill, which started up right after the end of Prohibition. This striking Art Deco label was used in the late 1930s.” (excerpt from the chapter: Life after Temperance)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Rothbaum, clearly a whiskey enthusiast, does a wonderful job as story-teller, historian, and booze archaeologist. He uncovers a rich visual history starting in the late 1800s, going through Prohibition and the Great Depression, into “The Swinging Sixties” and even through the “Dark Ages” – The 70s, 80s and 90s, finally taking us up to the present booze-soaked renaissance we currently seem to be in, “The New Golden Age”.

This 1969 label perfectly encapsulates the progression in liquor packaging design, with a sleek Manhattan cocktail image, gold chain link borders, and modern font, while still paying tribute to the brand’s historic roots.” (excerpt from the chapter: The Swinging Sixties)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

In each chapter, Rothbaum includes cocktails of the time, with recipes contributed by legendary bartenders, distillers and spirits writers and historians. The below cocktail, The Scofflaw Cocktail featured in the Prohibition section of The Art of American Whiskey, was contributed by writer, bartender and cocktail legend, Gary (“Gaz”) Regan.

The Scofflaw Cocktail – Contributed by Gary Regan
2 ounces of Bourbon or Straight Rye Whiskey
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
2 few dashes orange bitters

Put all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Giveaway Alert!

A signed copy of The Art of American Whiskey can be yours! With the holidays coming up, this is PERFECT for that special whiskey fan in your life. It’s also a wonderful addition to your own bar library in case you want to keep it all for yourself. You have a bar library, right?! In the comments below, write about your very first experience (that you can remember) with American whiskey and if the bottle design had any influence on your decision to drink said spirit.

All the labels featured here: “Reprinted with permission from The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum, copyright 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.”

12 Comments on BOOK GIVEAWAY! The Art of American Whiskey By Noah Rothbaum

  1. Eric
    October 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm (5 years ago)

    First (non-college age) experience was picking 4 Roses single barrel over the small batch. Partially in response to the “classier” bottle. I’ve gotten past labels at this point and am far more educated regarding bourbon, but the 4 roses is still a home bar standard.

    • Prairie Rose
      October 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm (5 years ago)

      I was definitely drawn to packaging before I knew anything! You can’t go wrong with 4 Roses. And that single barrel is one sexy mofo. Good thing it delivers!

    • Prairie Rose
      November 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm (5 years ago)

      Hey Eric! You’ve won a signed copy of Noah Rothbaum’s The Art of American Whiskey! I’d love to get your address so we can send this to you. Can you respond to this with your email or email me directly at when you get a chance! Congrats!

  2. Mahée Ferlini
    October 28, 2015 at 2:33 pm (5 years ago)

    Great read! This blog takes me back, and yes my first times drinking whiskey were all about the labels. Beam was certainly a family favorite. Thanks!

    • Prairie Rose
      October 28, 2015 at 3:22 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing! And for the kind words. Jim Beam is pretty classic. And that bottle label is recognized the world over!

  3. Colin Joliat
    October 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm (5 years ago)

    My first ever whiskey was back when I was a 21-year-old junior in high school, and I distinctly remember buying it because of the bottle’s shape. Knowing nothing of whiskey at the time, many bottles looked the same. Heights and labels varied, but the general feeling was the same. Then one nearly jumped off the shelf and into my heart. It was short and bold, much like a young Colin Joliat. Why was it rectangular instead of round? Does it double as a weapon? Is that why Lt. Col. Frank Slade wanted them wall to wall? I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I knew that bottle of Jack Daniels needed to come home with me.

    • Prairie Rose
      October 28, 2015 at 3:20 pm (5 years ago)

      Haha! SO good. Jack Daniels was my first experience with whiskey too! I was in Canada, where, at the time, it was “legal” for 18 year old me to be imbibing. “Jack and Ginger!” ordered like a pro…because I literally said the exact same thing that the guy in front of me ordered because I panicked when the bartender got to me. Pretty sure I had no idea what the bottle looked like at the time. Whiskey and ginger-ale is still a go-to for me. And Jack & Ginger will always have my heart. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jennifer
    October 28, 2015 at 4:54 pm (5 years ago)

    About 5 years ago I decided it was time to drink bourbon…It looks so pretty in the glass. I picked Maker’s Mark because I loved the wax over the cap. The label was simple, the wax added a splash of color, and the booze was great.

  5. Nathan
    October 29, 2015 at 3:25 am (5 years ago)

    First was Jim Beam. Had nothing to do with the bottle but everything to do with accessibility.

  6. Emilie
    November 1, 2015 at 2:45 pm (5 years ago)

    I started out with Maker’s Mark a few years ago, while, ironically, working in an Irish pub! I had been drinking Irish whiskey, mostly Jameson, for a long time and a co-worker suggested I try Maker’s for a change. I fell in love with bourbon and never looked back! Bottle design did not have a big an impact on me then as it does now that I am a more experienced drinker. Of course the product itself is always what is more important, but I love how some brands try to imbue the design of their bottles with the philosophy of the product or tell a story through the bottle that carries on in the drink.

  7. John Tucker
    November 10, 2015 at 6:39 pm (5 years ago)

    My first experience with Mr. Beam!
    I was a sophomore in a Catholic boys high school in Central Jersey, it was winter time and we were on a retreat at the Jersey shore…colder than you could imagine. One of my buddies, a good Polish lad named Eugene, brought a bottle of Jim Beam for the sole purpose of keeping us warm. Well Eugene must have been very cold because Eugene drank a lot of Mr. Beam to the point of, well, he ah, you know, let loose a mountain full of previously engulfed whiskey during one of our retreat sessions. A few 30 minutes later back in his room where we couldn’t stop laughing, a knock came upon the door. It was Br. Dennis and he wanted to confiscate the said bottle of hooch…which he did but upon leaving the room he mentioned ” ah, the good stuff”. Needless to say neither Eugene or the rest of us ever saw Mr. Beam again for the remainder of the retreat, though I’m sure Br. Dennis made himself quite satisfied knowing he had the loot!

    • Prairie Rose
      November 10, 2015 at 10:12 pm (5 years ago)

      This is so GREAT! I love this story! Ah, Br. Dennis had a good ol’ time at that retreat. Poor Eugene!


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